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Living in a $5k camper renovation: affordable alternative to a tiny house?

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This is the story of a 30-foot camper renovation that cost a total of $5,000 to build!

Have you ever considered renovating a travel trailer as an affordable alternative to a newly-built tiny house?

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30-foot camper renovation built for only $5,000

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 001

Images © @madefreeco

We first become interested in 2016 when we flipped our first camper and traveled around the US for three months.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 002

Images © @madefreeco

We currently live full time in a 30ft camper renovation.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 003

Images © @madefreeco

Our decision to go full time wasn’t so much about asking ourselves ‘why?’ but ‘why not?’.

In 2016 we decided to renovate an RV and travel around the United States for 3 months. This experiences stretched us and grew us in ways we didn’t think possible.

At this time we had never heard of the full-time RV lifestyle. This trip opened our eyes to the reality of what we truly needed to live a joyful life, which had nothing to do with how much space we had. Over the last couple of years, our lives have been inspired by this adventure to dream bigger.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 004

Images © @madefreeco

How long did it take you to finish your tiny house?
6 months

Did you do it yourself? Who helped? How much did it end up costing you to build it? (optional)
We did it ourselves with the help of friends. Our total cost was about 5k.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 005

Images © @madefreeco

How did you figure out where to put it? Do you keep it in one place or do you move around?
We are still in the process of figuring out a long term situation! Our friend has 50 acres that we will eventually move onto when we have full hookups. Right now our friends so graciously allow us to park in their backyard.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 006

Images © @madefreeco

What’s been the most challenging part about your tiny house so far?
No oven and no direct sewage hookups! Nuff said 😂

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 007

Images © @madefreeco

What benefits are you experiencing from it so far?
Freedom! RV living has many kinds of freedoms. Freedom of the open road, adventure, finances, and material possessions. While financial freedom is a big part of our journey the most valuable freedom RV living gives us is the ability to dream. Our small space has given us inspiration to be more creative and intentional with how we live our lives and how we can make an impact.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 008

Images © @madefreeco

What helpful piece of advice would you give to others who are interested in going tiny? What mistakes could you help them avoid?
Take the next step! Trust me it’s not as intimidating as it looks. Jon and I never grew up with RV’s or families that were into camping. We had no idea what we were doing when we bought our first RV. We learned as we went and ultimately it grew us and our marriage for the better. Do your research, ask questions, plan, save and start asking yourself what you value in life. You’d be surprised how easy and freeing it is to live in a small space. Start today! Pack some things up in boxes and start to discover what you truly need to live.

Living in a 30-foot camper renovation built for only 5k 009

Images © @madefreeco

Do you have a website, blog, or social media pages where we can connect with you and follow along?
Right now my main platform is our Instagram page @madefreeco, website coming soon!

Our big thanks to Alexandra @madefreeco for sharing!🙏

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Diana
    July 12, 2019, 5:51 pm

    Nice job. Where is the bathroom pics?

    • Ann
      July 12, 2019, 7:54 pm

      Here are some more pictures they posted elsewhere. I still didn’t see any bathroom, though I did see the kitchen area, which SEEMS to be somewhat in front of the couch?

      • Ann
        July 12, 2019, 7:55 pm

        Oops, forgot their link. https://www.instagram.com/madefreeco/

        • April
          August 2, 2021, 6:18 pm

          The link to Instagram doesn’t work. Does anyone know the correct link?

        • James D.
          August 2, 2021, 9:58 pm

          Believe they changed the name from madefreeco to madefreedesign…

        • Terri perkins
          August 3, 2021, 9:03 am

          Can’t find website about this camper redo. Wanting to know where the huge clock was purchased.

    • Ann
      July 12, 2019, 7:57 pm

      Guess I couldn’t put their link in there. Anyway, look above some of those pictures and their link will take you to more pics of it.

    • Judith M Loebel
      July 12, 2019, 10:17 pm

      We live semi full time in a 36 foot Class A vintage RV. We have full timed in it, right now doing a 3 month adventure w 3 adults, 2 kids. PS— we have a 4 burner stove, two ovens (propane and convection micro) double sink, RV.fridge w seperate top freezer. Solid hand made walnut cabnitry and paneling thruout. Large windows, leather captains chairs in the cab, deisel pusher engine. Queen size bed in rear, with tons of storage, under compartments, a pull out couch. For the kids we use the cab, turn the seats sideways (swivel) and had a plywood piece cut that we covered with a movers blanket, to not snag or rip seats, covered with a folding work out mat . For the other kid we did a blow up mattress on the LR floor. We have carpet in the LR and bedroom, ceramic tile floors in the rest. Corian counters, instead of the absurd booth seating our modelncame with a lovely Corian built in 5’long table w 2 custom chairs.

      We have a huge double cedar lined closet, which we custom fitted with an IKEA. multi drawer cabinet, for better storage, we have added several other storage features to make the areas work for us, particularly me, short and handicapped. We also tow a small VW Passat behind.

      Drawbacks– the bathroom is smaller than I would like BUT the door latches across the hallway to almost double the floor space. I would LOVE about 1 foot more actual bathroom/shower/toilet space, altho it is perfectly functional and has storage that most RV’er’s wish they had.

      And for all of this? We paid slightly more than twice what the posters here spent on “rehab,” and we did not have to rehab a thing! 1993 vintage FORETRAVEL UNIHOME. Find em mostly out West, but we found ours in New Hampshire. There are a LOT of bargains out there, and you can save by using State Parks, the occasional Walmart lot, some truck stops have RV overnight spots, BLM land for boondocking, some Counties have RV parks— most State Parks are around 20-25$ a night, sometimes less if you are Seniors or handicapped, we recently spent $16 a night in Mississippi.

    • Winston
      October 28, 2019, 7:40 pm

      The bathroom is the door to the left of the fridge.

  • Joanna Chanin
    July 12, 2019, 6:07 pm


  • Sheila Plourde
    July 12, 2019, 10:49 pm

    This is nice. Looks like a comfortable home. Is pretty inside.

  • Leslie Hall
    July 13, 2019, 8:23 pm

    You guys did a beautiful job, clean, cozy and well thought out. Thanks for sharing! BTW, how long is the trailer?

    • Alex
      July 14, 2019, 12:54 pm

      I believe it’s a 30ft trailer 🙂

  • Kelly Clarke
    July 13, 2019, 8:37 pm

    Nice. I have a 29 ft travel trailer. Great ideas for when I’m ready to renovate mine. The interior is in great condition when I purchased it used and it had a brand new queen mattress. I’ll just lighten it up and add new flooring and bring in my coffee table.

  • Kathleen
    July 14, 2019, 4:08 am

    Very impressed. Well done! would love to do the same.

  • Miranda Mehaffey-Minor
    July 14, 2019, 8:52 am

    Get a solar oven. Some fold down for storage. Now if I could figure out the septic issue, I would be a genius😀

    • Debra
      December 10, 2019, 3:28 pm

      A composting toilet solves the bulk of your black water problems and once you’re permanently set add a Grey water system to put back into Mother Earth👍

  • Gale
    July 14, 2019, 7:46 pm

    I wish we knew how much he paid for the original RV before fixing it up.

    • Alex
      July 18, 2019, 9:45 am

      I always assumed this was the total cost because that’s how she worded it in the interview, but I reached out to confirm and here’s the response I got from them…

      “Yes! The camper we found for an amazing deal on Craigslist 3k then we did the renovations so far for 2k. Seems hard to believe I know! Might come out to 6k soon when we build the deck and finish the bathroom :)”

  • Colleen
    July 16, 2019, 5:12 am

    Get yourselves a nice big toaster oven. No you can’t cook a turkey, but you can do pretty much everything else. It can be in storage when not in use.

  • Linda Baker
    July 19, 2019, 11:31 pm

    wondering if you had any problems painting the cabinets/walls – flooring looks like pergo type?

  • Marsha Cowan
    September 4, 2020, 6:12 pm

    Very nice make-over! Lovely!

  • Renee
    July 6, 2021, 9:44 am

    I am impressed. I have been looking and can not find anything under $30,900. Just looked at a 1986 that the owner said needed at least $7000 in work and be legal. No Bath. Sold in 12 hours for $800 cash. I guess I will look again in the winter ; ) This is lovely ; )

  • Dawn Jackson
    August 2, 2021, 8:21 pm

    You have done an outstanding job and have made a lovely home. If you don’t mind sharing, what is that delightful color you have used on your walls. It is between a blue and a green. You have lovely taste. Thank you so much for sharing these pictures of your very comfortable home. God bless!

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